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UAE pushes private investments to Sri Lanka

As January - September 2011 bilateral trade between UAE and Sri Lanka hit US $ 808 million and as Sri Lanka extended its invitation for strong participation from UAE for Expo 2012 show, UAE wants to push its private investments in Sri Lanka. ``We should go beyond our traditional trading practice. We should increase investments in each other. I am not just talking about bilateral level investments but also private sector level investments here" said United Arab Emirates Foreign Trade Minister Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi.

Lubna al Qasimi said this in the press briefing held in the aftermath of bilateral trade meeting held between UAE and Sri Lanka on November 23 at the Industry and Commerce Ministry. The Sri Lanka team on this occasion was led by Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen.

"We both have strong historic ties and great trade ties. Sri Lanka is a viable market for UAE as well" al Qasimi stressed. Though al Qasimi did not mention any investments sectors specifically, she showed strong interest in Sri Lanka's pharmaceutical market during November 23 bilateral meet.

Industry and Commerce Ministry has already started preliminary work on the first ever pharmaceutical manufacturing zone at Rathgalla, a few kilometres from Kurunegala. The original project scope of pharmaceutical manufacturing has now been expanded to pharmaceutical equipment manufacturing as well.

UAE is the largest investor in Sri Lanka from the Gulf economies, having invested nearly $ 100 million has been ranked as the third largest investor in Sri Lanka in 2010. Among the leading UAE investment groups in Sri Lanka are Al Futaim and Al Ghurair groups.

Minister Bathiudeen said: "Though the trade patterns between both countries have been irregular, there is an increase in trade, specially from 2009 onwards. The total trade which was $ 528 million in 2009 increased to $ 581 million in 2010 and in the period of January - September this year alone, the total trade increased to $ 808 million. Forty eight percent of exports from Sri Lanka to UAE consists of tea followed by apparels which is 18 percent. Also exported are natural rubber, coconut oil, desiccated coconut, copra, cashew nuts, essential oils, fruits and vegetables, and rubber products."

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